Ask Your Bartender: Free Drinks!

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Hey Bartender

I was hoping you could settle a debate that has begun in my office. The men say that most women drink for free (men buy their drinks) and expect to drink free. The women (myself included) believe this is an old wives tale as we have not the experience of walking into a bar and having random men pick up our tabs. Not that it has never happened but it is an exception not the rule. In your experience as a bartender are we women just going to the wrong places or is this free drink experience really the exception? I know it is silly question but it really is an intense debate!

Your opinion is greatly appreciated.


Hey Amy

When I was in college, I knew a group of girls that would make a game out of leaving the house at night with no money. They would see how drunk they could get for free, schmoozing horny old men into buying them as many drinks as they could drink before moving on to the next bar. Although they had a lot of fun, I could never shake the feeling that this was a really dangerous game they were playing: although they have no right, some men think they’re owed a thing or two after buying a vodka and tonic for a lady.

I’ve tended bar in all sorts of places, from college partyhouses and over-the-tracks dive bars to upscale restaurants and lounges. I can honestly tell you that you’re not missing out on anything. Sure, there’s the occasional woman who doesn’t pay for a thing (I fail to see how this is vastly different from prostitution), but it’s not the rule, it’s an exception.

8 Replies to “Ask Your Bartender: Free Drinks!”

  • Hi all,
    I just posted favorably about G’Vine on my blog. I am not part of a sleazy online marketing campaign. I’m a freelance journalist who is not bought off with a bottle of booze.

    I have no idea what John’s story is – but I do like the product. Not sure if I’d run up to a bar for it, but I do enjoy sipping it at home…

    Maybe he is just an over-enthusiastic fan?

  • Cocktailgirl says:

    I was going to suggest that John is part of the G’vine publicity machine, but then I realised that no one with such terrible grammar would be trusted to write a press release!
    Anyhoo, a guy once sent a drink over to where I was sitting in a bar and i have to admit it kind of gave me the creeps. Why not approach and chat? It made me immediately suspect he had a full on james bond complex, while simultaneously making me feel obliged to smile lamely as if I were suddenly in some cheesy 70s disco movie. Took the drink though. Writing this I feel as if this could be perceived as rather curmudgeonly of me – but for god’s sake we’re talking the price of a drink here, he didn’t arrange to pay off my mortgage after noticing the turn of my ankle. If men think they always get landed with the bill: 1. i am amazed as this has never happened to me before or since 2. who’s holding the gun to your head? you’re an autonomous individual, free to pay or not pay like all the rest of us!

  • Leonesse says:

    I was just discussing this the other day with my husband and some friends. They found it utterly amazing that I have never been bought a drink. Of course, I went out to clubs for a total of one year and I am fairly oblivious to flirting, but still… Made me feel abit less than! He then informed me that it would have taken me flirting to get the attention to get the drink, so there went that one. I am horrible at flirting with anyone I don’t know. Just not into it. He said I was probably too intimidating. Not sure what to think of that. 🙂

  • Amy says:

    Thanks for the response Jeffrey. It is a relief to hear that in your opinion it is indeed an exception. I have always tried to be conscientious when drinking at the bar. If someone buys me a round I return the favor. If I were to run up an expensive bar tab I would feel guilty if I allowed a stranger to pick up the tab and a bit obligated. If a women goes to the bar to get free drinks she is most certainly going to have to flirt and put herself on display. The men are essentially paying for the time and attention of a good looking woman and that essentially is to me no different than what goes on a strip club when the strippers start making their rounds and the men buy them drinks. And besides it gives women a bad name.

    It is also nice to hear that there are bars where a woman can enjoy a drink in peace because while I don’t drink for free I still have to deal with more than my fair share of lame pick up lines and drunk men that just won’t go away!

  • There’s another side to that, JM (hey, we’ve got the same initials!). I was taught to tend bar at a VERY old-school neighborhood tavern that was run by a little old lady, Mrs. Lucille Johnson.

    Lucille had some very strict rules for the men that visited the bar:

    1. If you didn’t arrive with the woman, you weren’t to talk to the woman.

    2. If you wanted to buy a lady a drink, you had to have her permission to do so.

    As a result, it was always a comfortable place for women to patronize.

    These days, Sasha Petraske’s bar Milk and Honey in New York enforces similar rules. Kudos to Sasha for bringing some class back to the bar world.

  • Del Fuego says:

    In my experience, I always avoided the girls who expected drinks bought for them.

    One time, I was travelling on business in North Carolina, and stopped into a local pub for a drink. I watched one young lady accept drinks from 3 gentlemen, and she was approaching the end of her 3rd when I stepped to the bar to order my next drink. She turned to me, and asked if was going to buy her a drink, and I calmly looked her in the eye and said “No, you’re buying me this one” and grabbed my beer and walked away.

  • John says:

    This article is right in some and wrong in others aspect. I would have to agree that most women do drink for free when they go to a bar. Most men are willing to pay for them because for some odd reason. I went to Barolo in Manhattan and every woman wanted this drink called G’vine. There were women that were trying to get a free drink, but there were also plenty of women that were actually willing to pay for this G’vine (gin). I had it and I couldn’t stop drinking it. This is one of the only drinks that I have actually seen women running up to the bartender willing to pay for there own drinks.

  • Jewish mom says:

    Today it’s an exception. When my generation was in their 20’s, men would send unsolicited drinks to trigger that ‘nice girl’ response we were all brainwashed with as children.

    “Oh, we can’t turn down the drink. It would be rude!”

    “Oh, we have to let him sit down. He bought us a drink and refusing to talk to him would be rude!”

    It was a socially acceptable way for a man to force his company upon women. And it was socially UNacceptable for a woman to refuse. Luckily, times have changed.

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